For Rada Eyewear, Growth is the Name of the Game

By JoAnne Sommers

EyeOnIndustryRada Eyewear is a company on the move. Six years after its official launch, the Concord, ON-based provider of quality, fashionable eyewear products is preparing to make its move into the giant U.S. market while expanding its existing footprint in Canada.

Rada is also making plans to increase its product range and enter different market segments, says Colin Kramer, president of sales and operations.

The company was founded in 2008 by a group of businessmen that included Kramer. A native of South Africa, Kramer, who has an accounting background, worked for various companies and was the CEO of Makro Medical, a large medical device manufacturing and distribution company, before coming to Canada in 2006. He then worked for Steelback Brewery, an Ontario company, as its VP of Operations from 2006 until 2008. In launching Rada, Kramer had the backing of a group of investors and entrepreneurs who had experience in the optical field and with whom he had worked in the past. The group felt there was an opportunity in the Canadian market for a company that offers good quality, affordable frames and sunglasses in various product categories for adults, children and teens, Kramer explains.

“We have made a commitment to provide our customers with innovative products and service at competitive price points,” he notes. “Our eyewear offers exceptional style, quality and excellent value, combined with dependability and thoughtful design. We continuously monitor innovations in the market, along with changes in style and fashion, and we incorporate these into our product offerings.”

Underpinning Rada’s success is its partnership with Emporium Eyewear Ltd., one of Europe’s largest optical companies. Headquartered in Wembley, England, Emporium Eyewear has been providing unique and superior quality eyewear to the U.K. and European markets since 2001.

The six-year partnership between Rada and Emporium, which involves product development and sourcing, gives Rada access to Emporium’s expertise and facilitates its input into the creation of new models and designs for the North American market.


Says Kramer: “We have the advantage of being partnered with a major company, which is one of the largest branded distributors in the U.K. and Europe. Emporium Eyewear designs and develops the brands and we work directly with them throughout this process, from conception to manufacturing.”

Kramer was very excited about Rada’s exhibit at Vision Expo East (VEE) this spring. The company launched all of its collections at the New York show from March 28-30, which it used as a springboard into the U.S. market as well as for the Canadian customers who visited.

Those collections include Kids Vision, with trendy styles for boys and girls in eye sizes ranging from 47 down to 36 cables; other children’s collections include BMX Eyewear and BMX Teen, as well as Disney Princess, Iron Man, Spider Man and Marvel Avengers. Since late 2013, Rada Eyewear has been the distributor in Canada for the latter four collections.

“To be approved by the licensees to carry their brands in Canada is an indication of their confidence in us as a distributor,” says Kramer. “It also means that we can offer several very popular brands of high-quality children’s eyewear that help to differentiate us from our competitors.”

For women, Rada offers Foschini Eyewear, an elegant, progressive-friendly ladies’ line that is newly arrived from Europe.

Carducci is the company’s diverse, core, adult classic line. This unisex line caters to the needs of almost every man and woman, says Kramer. “The designs are classic traditional and intended for everyone from teens to those aged 70-plus.”

Many models within the Carducci collection are made with stainless steel or monel metal and it includes an assortment of full-rim and semi-rimless frames.

The Solo collection consists of flex hinge metal (nickel silver) frames, plus classic and modern adult men’s, ladies and unisex frames made of plastic. This is Rada’s budget range, Kramer says.

Delancy is Rada’s plastic (hand-made acetate) frame line. The designs are retro yet funky and appeal to a wide age range, from teens and up. Hand-made acetate frames are extremely fashionable and the Delancy collection offers a wide variety of colourful, European-inspired styles. ”There are many popular retro and funky models included here,” Kramer says. “This collection continues to grow from strength to strength.”

Emporium Rimless is Rada’s ever-fashionable rimless range. This high-end collection is designed for both men and women clients. The frames are made of stainless steel and the temples of some models are made of TR90 material.

Rada’s team of sales representatives is one of the company’s greatest strengths, says Kramer.

“Our sales people have many years of experience in the eyewear field and possess excellent product and market knowledge. Rada’s business model is customer-centric and we work with our customers to develop and diversify their selection of frames.”


To this point, the company has focused its efforts primarily on central Canada, with some representation in the east and west, but it is in the process of increasing the size of its sales teams in all provinces.

“We are entering the branded product segment of the business, which makes this a very exciting time for us,” says Kramer.

And as it looks forward to its U.S. launch later this year, coupled with plans for expansion in Canada, Rada is aggressively seeking new sales people, preferably those with optical industry experience.

Says Kramer: “We are embarking on a significant growth phase and this is opening up great opportunities for people who are interested in joining a progressive, forward-looking company at a relatively early stage in its development. As we expand, these people will have exciting opportunities to advance their careers.”

Anyone who is interested in pursuing this opportunity is invited to contact Colin Kramer at: or call 905.597.8202.

Successful applicants will be joining a company that has made a commitment to continuous improvement, Kramer notes.

“We offer quality and reliability in both our products and our service and continually assess and measure ourselves in an effort to achieve and surpass industry standards. Thanks to our strategic European partnership with Emporium Eyewear, we stay on top of fashion and design trends. This helps us to understand the growing market in both adult and children’s eyewear and meet these needs with a diverse collection of frames.”

For Rada, the sky’s the limit.

Game Change: How FYidoctors is Altering Canada’s Optical Landscape

By JoAnne Sommers

EyeOnIndustryIn an industry well known for its conservatism, Dr. Alan Ulsifer is an anomaly. An innovator and a maverick, the founder and CEO of Calgary-based FYidoctors doesn’t mind stirring things up as he works to advance the interests of the more than 400 doctors who are part of the FYidoctors and Vision Source Canada platforms.

Consider the company’s recently announced joint venture with VSP Vision Care Canada (VSP). The joint venture, which gives FYidoctors access to Canadian patients covered by VSP’s vision insurance program, combines the latter’s employee benefits platform with FYidoctors’ extensive network of independent optometrists across Canada, including its Vision Source Canada franchise locations.

VSP’s role is to market, sell and administer its vision care insurance platform to employers across Canada. In turn, employees of these organizations can seek care from FYidoctors’ network of optometrists as well as its Vision Source Canada franchise locations. FYidoctors will also, subject to strict criteria, allow access to independent eye doctors outside the core of FYidoctors’ companies.

While he is concerned about the false assumptions being circulated about the partnership, Ulsifer is unfazed by the controversy it has provoked. “Canadians don’t get their eyes examined often enough, in part because of the cost,” he says. “Using the VSP platform in this new company, we have created a program that is more accessible and will lead to more frequent eye exams and purchases of ophthalmic product.”

There is significant concern in the industry that VSP will be able unilaterally to dictate doctors’ fees for examinations and products as it can do in the U.S. This is not possible under the terms of the new Canadian company, says Ulsifer, who adds, “We believe the new company has fully addressed those fears and that it actually prevents a U.S.-type platform from being formed by VSP in Canada.”

Creating the best possible visual outcomes for its patients while striving to ensure that optometrists, not corporations, define what eyecare looks like in Canada, is the raison d’être of FYidoctors.

To that end, Ulsifer and his colleagues have created an infrastructure which he calls, “unique in the world. We’re corporate in name, not function. This is a doctor-owned and governed partnership of people with a commitment to providing the best possible eyecare technology, products and services. We understand that we need to be a certain size and scale to ensure a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

The idea for FYidoctors emerged from Ulsifer’s visit to Vision Expo West in 2006. There, for the first time, he saw free-form lenses and the software that created them and recognized the opportunity to vertically integrate the optometric practice and create value. Fired up by the experience, he went home to Grande Prairie, AB and shared his vision with his partners at Northern Vision Centre, one of Canada’s largest independent optometric practices. They then invited 10 other practices to discuss market challenges and opportunities, and, as Ulsifer says, “everyone caught the bug.”

Later that year, Ulsifer led the largest corporate merger in Canadian history, based on the number of companies involved, with more than 80 professional corporations joining forces to create FYidoctors.

It took about two years to set up the new company’s infrastructure, he says. “We opened a lab in Burnaby, B.C., starting off with a 3,000-square-foot facility. Today we have more than 10 times that amount of space in a fully automated free-form laboratory and distribution facility, along with exclusive Canadian distribution of 15 products.”

The company now has more than 1,400 staff, including about 280 optometrists across 109 FYidoctors locations coast to coast. And last fall it acquired the Canadian assets and operations of Vision Source Canada, North America’s largest network of private practice optometrists, adding 105 Canadian Vision Source locations and approximately 150 optometrists to its roster.


Supporting them is a unique management team that features financial, marketing and legal specialists who have expertise beyond the optical industry.

The company’s structure and size and its unique support platforms have enabled FYidoctors to thrive in the face of the technological challenges the industry faces. As Ulsifer says, “Technology and economics don’t always align but through our shared efficiencies we make it work without having to pass all the costs on to our patients.”

The company’s critical mass has also enabled it to add attractive incentives such as its new Aeroplan partnership. FYidoctors recently acquired VEDI Corporation, which gives it the exclusive right to offer Aeroplan Miles at all of its corporate locations. There will be an opportunity for all Vision Source Canada franchise locations and other independent practices to offer Aeroplan Miles as well.

Ulsifer says the goal of FYidoctors is to stay ahead of the curve by anticipating emerging technological developments and business opportunities and adapting its platform to take advantage of them.

The company will introduce a new vision screening app in the coming weeks. It also plans to launch an Internet-based public portal designed to serve existing customers with branded frames, ophthalmic lenses and contact lenses. Thanks to new technology, licensed practitioners will be able to perform measurements via a virtual platform, thus enabling patients to choose the best possible products to meet their particular needs.

After taking a year off to implement a new practice management marketing program company-wide, FYidoctors recently embarked on an aggressive new growth phase, which began with the addition of the Vision Source franchises in October.

Going forward, the company is focused on ensuring that optometrists continue to play a significant role in shaping the eyecare field in Canada.

“We want to be involved in making the difficult decisions that will determine the future of optometrists and optometry in this country,” says Ulsifer. “Some of our choices are considered controversial because optometrists in this country have traditionally been more reactive than proactive. But we’re committed to determining our own destiny instead of sitting back and simply hoping for the best.”

While the Canadian optical market remains strong, Ulsifer predicts that it will experience considerable disruption in the short term. That, he says, will create fantastic opportunities for innovators who are willing to challenge the status quo.

“In 10 years, the delivery of eyecare in this country will look very different than it does today. Now that we enjoy a strategic advantage, we plan to leverage it to gain market share, promote all of our associated clinics and find new ways to deliver services that match changing consumer expectations.”

Sales Soar with Superior Office Design

By Paddy Kamen

eyeonindustryModular Design Systems Inc. (MDS) is an overnight success, 25 years in the making. Owned and operated by Frank Fumagalli and Brian Wolcovitch, MDS has impressed and influenced the optical industry since its inception in 1989.

What started out as a chance meeting in 1998 between Fumagalli, a general contractor and Wolcovitch, a frame sales rep and office space planner, turned into an amazing collaboration, for each man had one of two essential skill sets required for designing and building world class offices.

The two met when Fumagalli, a contractor with a background in architecture and furniture design, was building an office that Wolcovitch had designed.

As they got to know each other and worked together, they became friends. Wolcovitch told Fumagalli about a new display concept he envisioned, which was a variation of the acrylic frame rod he introduced to the optical industry in 1976.

Wolcovitch wanted to make the new display totally flexible, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it. Fumagalli came to him a week later with a full set of blueprints, resolving the flexibility issues. Together, they developed and patented the display system.

As it turns out, Fumagalli was training to be an architectural technician in his home country of Argentina. Typical of foreigners entering a new country, Canada didn’t recognize his credentials and like so many others before him, Fumagalli had to find a way to make a living. He learned everything there was to know about the building industry and at the time of their meeting, was one of the best general contractors Wolcovitch had ever worked with.

Wolcovitch taught his new partner everything there is to know about designing an optometric office and Fumagalli in turn, taught Wolcovitch every aspect of building an office and designing furniture.

Consequently, both men bring considerable know-how to bear on every office they design. Elena Fumagalli, Frank’s wife, makes two essential contributions to the company: she runs the office, and also creates the gorgeous colour schemes that complete every office designed by MDS.

Wolcovitch knows the optical business thoroughly and is very clear about the complex web of needs, all of which must be met in the well-designed office.

“Aesthetics are a critical element because when people love an environment, they enjoy spending time in it and they purchase better product, much more often. But just as important to our clients is the flow aspect of the design,” he says.

By ‘flow’ Wolcovitch is referring to the way people – both staff and patients – move through the space. While patients move in a natural flow from the reception desk to the waiting room, on to the pre-test area and examination rooms, staff have to move efficiently behind the scenes, all day long. He explains: “It’s all about understanding the complex needs of our client, and my 38 years in the industry has given me that knowledge.”

Placement of the dispensary is key to letting patients know that all of their eyecare needs will be met at your location. “The best results you can achieve from your dispensary come from the dispensary’s location – front and center,” says Wolcovitch. “Patients must sit next to it, pass right by it or directly through it en route to and from the diagnostic areas of the office. Everything about the dispensary must have a ‘Wow’ factor that will ensure the best possible return on your investment.”

The patented display system that helped to launch MDS is another major element in the unique package of skills, expertise and products that makes MDS the leader in office design. The success of the MDS frame display system lies in its visual beauty and its versatility. It signals to customers what they can expect to find when they get up close. “There’s no longer any need to have stunning posters leaning against a wall, or on the floor, or POP displays cluttering up counters and table tops,” says Wolcovitch. “When patients walk through a dispensary that employs our system they are drawn in by the posters which are displayed directly, in amongst the frames. The frame products are beautifully lit and dynamically displayed. Patients don’t have to guess what brands you carry.”

A wide variety of holders are available for the MDS frame display system, from single acrylic frames holders to trays of frames, allowing you to display as many or as few frames as you want. Holders can easily be repositioned at any time, so there won’t be gaping holes in the display after sales have been made, or empty holders can be removed and stored until new product comes in. Stock rotation is simple and convenient, and the whole board can be redesigned quickly for fresh impact.

The frame dispensary is, or should be, the largest profit center in the office and Wolcovitch has the clients to prove that with MDS designing your office, it is. “The return on investment for the eyecare professional (ECP) can be phenomenal. On average, ECPs dispense to five out of 10 patients who need eyeglasses. Our dispensaries garner sales from 7 out of 10 to 10 out of 10 patients. This represents a huge increase in profits.”

Not long ago, a client told Wolcovitch that in the first month after their newly renovated office re-opened, they experienced the strongest month of sales in their 25-year history and that month was January, traditionally the slowest month of the whole year. Also recently, MDS had a group of doctors tell them they wanted to double the size of the dispensary in their new office design, citing the fact that frame sales represented 60 per cent of their revenues.

With MDS, it’s about so much more than aesthetics. “We create beautiful offices, with wonderful colour schemes and sensory inputs on every level,” notes Wolcovitch. “But perhaps more importantly, we make every work day a pleasure for staff because they can do their jobs effectively and efficiently. Fluid design gives competent staff the tools necessary to help grow a practice and gives patients the impetus to remain with the client for all of their services.”

You can see many examples of MDS magic at


A Real Alternative

By JoAnne Sommers

It’s probably no coincidence that Paul Storace chose the name Alternative Eyewear for the optical company he launched in 2008. Storace, president and CEO of Alternative and Plan “B” Eyewear, sees his companies as real alternatives to what he decries as the “homogenization” of the global optical industry.

“All the big brands have been taken up and that trend has homogenized the business,” he explains. “At one time, an optical shop was an eclectic mix of eyewear that the owner felt would best suit his or her clientele. Today, many stores look the same with identical offerings. They are competing with the big companies while buying from them at the same time and that does not make sense to me.”

Fortunately, dispensers who want to differentiate themselves can look to Alternative and Plan “B” Eyewear for distinctive optical frames, sunglasses and magnetic clips-ons that combine excellent quality with original styling.

Storace, who designs his own collections and does all of the creative work and marketing for Alternative and Plan “B” Eyewear, takes pride in launching 150 to 200 new styles annually.

He gets his greatest satisfaction from seeing people wear his frames – “I love making people feel happy and beautiful,” he says – as well as from knowing that the opticians and optometrists who sell his products are showing the best he has to offer.

“We’re frame designers, not licensors,” he explains. “Our focus is on the needs of independent opticians and optometrists and we’re well-positioned to help optical stores offer an eclectic product mix. We pride ourselves on always having something new and on it being in stock. It’s not easy but we maintain an extremely high order fill rate.”

Storace’s understanding of the needs of opticians and optometrists stems from his three decades of experience in the optical business, starting in eastern Ontario with Lunette Cartier in 1985.

“I began working as a sales rep and immediately fell in love with the business,” he says. “I was fascinated that I was actually being paid to go around and interact with so many interesting people. The optical bug bit me hard.”

Storace’s success led to his promotion to regional sales manager; he managed Lunette Cartier’s Ontario staff of 15 before leaving in 1995 to join Northern Eyes as a shareholder and partner. He operated that company until 2001 when he sold his share and opened Elite Eyewear Canada, a division of the eponymous U.S.-based firm. In 2006, Storace launched Plan “B” Eyewear, “because I wanted to have my own business.” Two years later, he assumed the assets of Elite Eyewear Canada, forming Alternative Eyewear.

The two sister companies essentially serve the same client base, says Storace, although Alternative Eyewear caters to a broader, more conservative market, while Plan “B” is more eclectic, with a younger product offering.

Between them they offer nine eyewear collections, including Grace, Gridiron, Glacée, Headlines and Ice Cream. The 2008 Canadian launch of the Ice Cream line for Plan “B” was an important milestone, Storace notes.

“The launch was timed very well and it filled a void in an otherwise uncoloured market which, at that time, was very hesitant to take any risks. I decided to mix neon purple with neon lime green and begin offering really crazy colour options that looked good enough to eat but also flattered the woman who was willing to step out of her comfort zone.

When they sold out quickly, Storace knew he was on to something. “That gave me the confidence and the breathing room to work on more designs and more collections.”

Another significant milestone was the creation of the One Sun line in 2009. This high-quality, value-based line, which is completely Rx-able, filled a market void by making it possible to put prescription lenses in sunglasses.

“When we introduced One Sun, there were other low-price, Rx-able offerings but the quality was poor. The industry was trying to catch the market leaders but I knew I couldn’t do that so I played to my strengths: fashion, quality, and problem solving.

“People wanted prescription sunglasses that were reliable and looked great; I delivered that by offering over 150 sku’s of Rx-able sunwear with polarized lenses of reasonable quality, at any one time.”

Proudly Canadian and fiercely independent, Alternative and Plan “B” Eyewear distribute to all of North America from their head office in Ajax, just east of Toronto. The companies’ 30 sales reps and 12 office staff are a major part of its success. Many of them have been with Storace since his time with Northern Eyes and he freely admits he would be lost without them.

In a market dominated by large eyewear companies, many of which are owned or operated by insurance firms, Alternative and Plan “B” Eyewear stand apart.

“We’re not large,” says Storace. “This is a grassroots business and I’m very much a hands-on operator. We haven’t caved in and gone for pseudo-brand names and, unlike many of our larger competitors, who focus on the bottom line, we’re focused on the needs of the end user.”

Alternative and Plan “B” Eyewear made a foray into social media this year with the launch of their Facebook page and the results have been impressive, says Storace.

“We have had a lot of Facebook activity to date – the page is well liked and gets lots of visits. We then used it as a springboard to our very successful OMFG (Oh My Fabulous Glasses) campaign, for which we got a tremendous number of entries.”

The companies’ social media presence has been expanded to include Pinterest and Twitter, thereby fostering a stronger online presence for the company, Storace notes.

“Social media by itself won’t make a business grow but it’s important to have a presence,” he says. “There’s a cost involved in setting it up and managing it but the impact is immediate and it gives you control over the content.”

Alternative and Plan “B” Eyewear made a successful return to Vision Expo East in New York last spring and you can find them at Vision Expo West in Las Vegas this September; they will showing the Glacée line, as well as premiering a new men’s collection in the Galleria.

“Our goal is to continue growing and expanding our business among eyecare professionals and to expand our sales network across North America,” Storace says. “I really believe that the future of our company will be built on the solid foundation we have established, the people we surround ourselves with and the products we deliver.”

Transitions Optical: Driving Consumers Your Way

By Paddy Kamen

Historically, eyecare professionals (ECPs) had few ways to attract the public to their retail stores: a window display, local advertising, sponsoring a sports team, flyers, etc. What else could motivate a potential customer to walk into the store… designer brands, word of mouth? While these tried and true techniques may be effective in their own way, they are very limited in scope and sometimes costly. They are also, yawn, rather old school.

Then along comes Transitions Optical, Inc., a company that has dramatically influenced eyewear consumers and driven them into optical stores. How? Through advertising! Today, fully 40 per cent of people surveyed say they are intending to purchase Transitions® lenses. And this year, Transitions is advertising to the tune of 244 million impressions on Canadian television alone. And get this: brand awareness among the general population is 56 per cent!

The TV ads, found on CTV, CBC and specialty networks including HGTV, Discovery, TSN and many others, are part of a comprehensive campaign across Canada and the U.S., unfolding from February to December 2013. Your patients who watch Breakfast Television and Canada AM will be better informed of their choices in adaptive eyewear as a result of this biggest-ever Transitions advertising campaign.

Online folks (and who isn’t online these days?) will be seeing the Transitions campaign on, AOL, Corus Entertainment, CBC, The Globe and Mail,Rogers, Torstar and Postmedia Network. There’s also a social media component that we’ll get to in a bit.

Matt Dorling, the new director for Transitions Optical in Canada (he is also responsible for retail in the U.S.), says the main objective of the campaign is to convey the enhanced experience consumers can get from wearing any of the Transitions family of products.

There is a Transitions lens for every consumer, and two main product categories: Transitions everyday adaptive lenses and Transitions adaptive sunwear. “People want their lenses to do more and they want a product that enhances the way they experience everyday life,” explains Dorling. “If they want the absolutely clearest lens indoors while still having sun protection when outdoors, the Transitions VI lens is a perfect choice; the person who is outdoors a lot and wants maximum relief from eye strain, in addition to a lens that activates behind a windshield, will prefer the Transitions XTRActive® lens. And those who enjoy the superior visual experience of a polarized lens will find that the Transitions Vantage lens gives them the desired advantages.”

The sunwear category includes a wide range of Rx and non-Rx products, including sun lenses, sunglasses (lenses and frames sold together) and motorcycle face shields. Designed specifically to meet the unique visual demands of driving, Transitions Drivewear® sun lenses are the only polarized photochromic to activate behind the windshield of a car; combining NuPolar® polarization and advanced photochromic dyes, which respond to both visible light and UV light.

The advertising campaign sparks an interest in Transitions XTRActive lenses and Transitions Vantage lenses – and encourages consumers to visit their ECP to have an informed discussion. And because covering all the bases is just the way Transitions does business, the company goes to great lengths to facilitate that discussion. For ECPs, Transitions offers training and education through the Transitions Learning Portal at Dorling says the Learning Portal is being well used by Canadian professionals, with about 450 ECPs registered and actively using the system at any one time. While much of the content is specifically about selling the Transitions family of products, accredited continuing education courses are also available.

The discussion between ECPs and patients is also facilitated when consumers visit the website. Since January, traffic to has risen by over 200 per cent. The most viewed pages on the site are the ‘products’ page and the ‘where to buy’ page, which further reinforces the fact that consumers want to take action and obtain Transitions lenses.

Another exciting aspect to the campaign is the company’s partnerships with celebrity ambassadors to enhance its social media efforts. According to Dorling, these big names in their fields – country music artist Darius Rucker; baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr.; celebrity chef Robert Irvine; and National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths and writer Andrew Evan – will be using social media channels to talk about their individual experiences with Transitions lenses. “This gives the campaign a nice element of authenticity because not all the information is coming from us, but is based on our ambassadors’ view of every day experiences wearing Transitions lenses” notes Dorling.

Social media connections with consumers are also fostered through the Transitions Facebook page (Transitions lenses) and Twitter account (@Transitions), through which the company shares information and videos about their family of products, in addition to eye and overall health tips and photos from outreach events.

The total effect of the campaign, with social media, online ads, celebrity involvement and television, amounts to what Dorling calls a ‘surround sound’ effect. And the impact is further enhanced with in-store information and education aids in the form of video loops, dispensing mats, brochures and posters, which are available at These aids will no doubt help spark recognition in the consumer’s mind and make it easier for practitioners to start conversations about Transitions lenses.

Dorling recommends that ECPs take the lead in helping the patient choose the best Transitions lens solution by asking questions about lifestyle, work and outdoor activities. “It’s important that patients feel they’re being drawn out and listened to with respect to their needs. Our training gives the ECP suggested language to use when describing the products; it’s best when it is not technical but instead built around the patient experience and finding the best solution for that wearer.”

Transitions sales reps are also available for customized seminars and training for ECPs and their staff. “We’re expanding the sales team inCanadaand will have more reps in the field. This is another way we’re expressing our passion for helping the ECP to be successful in capitalizing on growing consumer awareness of the Transitions brand,” says Dorling. 

It’s definitely a whole new world for ECPs as a result of Transitions Optical’s advertising campaigns. You’re no longer thrown on your own resources but rather supported in a myriad of ways. Transitions has made success very easy, creating a value-added product and driving well-informed consumers right to your door. They’ve really changed the game, making you and your patients the winners.

The Future Keeps Us Focused: Tura Stays on Track with Fashion

By Paddy Kamen

What does Tura, one of the oldest and most successful eyewear companies in North America, take for granted? Absolutely nothing!

You might be forgiven for thinking that Tura could rest on its laurels, given an incredible 75 years of innovation. After all, it was Tura’s marketing genius and founder, Monroe Levoy, who recognized way back in 1938 that women would love eyewear if it were viewed as a fashion accessory. Levoy proceeded to make it so, introducing the first bright colours to spectacle frames: Cherry Red, Powder Blue and “Turalite” (silver). Levoy also innovated the first aluminum metal die-cast frame in the industry in 1947 (face-formed, curved to fit any corrective lens, fully adjustable and virtually unbreakable) and initiated the trend to ornamentation on frame fronts and temples.

As fashion frame originators, Tura’s philosophy was espoused thus: “the more becoming eyeglasses are, the more apt women are to follow faithfully the prescription of their use.” Helping women to see that eyewear is one part of their overall ‘look’, Tura created a wardrobe of glasses to match the changing colour schemes of fashion. Who did they turn to for advice on this? None other than Vogue magazine! They even provided eyecare retailers with a scarf draping kit based on a colour wheel to help women select frames that complemented their personal colour profile. Known as ‘Matched to Fashion’, this campaign took place in 1949. An ad that was part of this campaign read: “Because women who wear glasses realize that there is no such thing as inconspicuous glasses, spectacle frames assume their logical place as a fashion accessory.”

Tura, the frame company, was born out of “The House of Levoy,” Monroe Levoy’s dispensary on Madison Avenue inNew York City. The name Tura was derived from the company product, the “Futura Mirror.”

A recent innovation from Tura is the Lotus hinge, first introduced in 1994. The hinge design didn’t require a screw to help keep frames in alignment. Today, in celebration of Tura’s 75th anniversary, the original Lotus hinge has been retooled with the latest technology to create the perfect marriage of form and function. Benefits of this superior hinge include frames that stay adjusted and the reduced likelihood of the hinge breaking or failing. In fact, the re-mastered Tura Lotus collection will be showcased in a luxury display case at the Tura booth at Vision Expo East inNew York City in March 2013.

“Our approach in reinventing this collection was to create frames that were feminine and light, like fine jewelry,” says Jennifer Coppel, vice president of brand management. “Each contour of every style has a reason to be – there is nothing extraneous. The result is an on-trend collection with sleek, modern, easy-to-wear silhouettes.”

While the new styles feature a minimalist and delicate design aesthetic, the Lotus collection still adheres to Tura’s impeccable craftsmanship and unparalleled American style. Designed in theU.S., Lotus frames are made of titanium in a Japanese factory renowned for its high standards and technical expertise. Titanium construction is strong, lightweight, durable, corrosion-resistant and nickel-free. This collection combines the best of modern technology with old-world craftsmanship. Each frame is machined for precision, hand polished and assembled, and rigorously inspected for quality.

This 75th anniversary year also sees new frame styles added to the Mosaic Collection, the bold and brilliant geometric group. With distinctive jewelry-inspired details, this artsy and expressive collection includes both ophthalmic and sunwear styles for women and men in both acetate and metal. The collection is supported by a comprehensive marketing campaign that includes a revamped logo and brand colours. In-store POP emphasizing Tura’s reputation for fashion and quality make it easy for independent eyecare professionals to bring this brand alive for consumers.

A large part of Tura’s ongoing success is due to its commitment to supporting clients. “We never assume that our customer service can’t be improved,” explains Vice President of Marketing Audrey Pavia. “We hold training sessions with our customer service representatives every two weeks to review best practices and to strategize about ways to improve service. We know our customers are busy and don’t have much time to wait or to problem solve. Therefore, at Tura our automated phone and computer systems are completely integrated. When an account calls, our service staff has instant access on their monitors to all the pertinent client information. Rolling frame boards are handy so staff can access all frames without having to leave their desks for more than a few seconds. These simple innovations help them quickly answer all customer questions.”

All Tura staff, both in-office and external sales, participate in the company’s internal intranet site, which provides a continual flow of new brand, product and marketing information. SaysPavia, “This site is a fantastic communication tool and provides very quick access to training information and sales tools. It keeps staff motivated and well-informed.”

Tura employs more than 200 people inNorth Americaand is based in Great Neck,New York. They hold a portfolio of brands that include Bogner, crush, Geoffrey Beene, Lulu Guinness, oio, Ted Baker, TITANflex and Tura.

“The Tura brand continues to be the backbone of the company,” explains Coppel. “It adds the finishing touch with eyewear that is beautiful, that accents your face, complements your clothing and enhances your individual style.”

Ted Baker is also a very strong brand for Tura. Coppel notes: “Ted Baker designs are inspired by Ted’s travels around the world. He tries to bring out the personality of the eyewear through shape and detail, resulting in a contemporary, playful and cosmopolitan collection that appeals to consumers. From subtle details to quirky point of sale pieces, everything that bears the Ted Baker name always offers absolute quality and that little bit more.”

As Tura celebrates its 75th anniversary there is so much to be proud of, and yet there is no sense at all of musty satisfaction with the past. Instead, we see a dynamic company still leading the way with fashion-forward, high-quality eyewear.

Paviasays it all: “Although Tura has such a legacy to lean on, we continue to progress and listen to our accounts, answer their needs and support them in today’s ever-changing market. We keep looking forward. Our heritage makes us proud, but the future keeps us focused.”

Powerful, Innovative, Effective: Briot/WECO and Visionix Team Up for Mastery

By Paddy Kamen


Matt Cevasco

Briot/WECO Canada is stronger than ever and President and General Manager Matt Cevasco is on the job – with an exciting new company to boot!

Canadian eyecare and lab professionals are no doubt familiar with Briot/WECO Canada. You may not be up-to-date, however, with developments in the company over the last few years. It’s a story of mergers, acquisitions and sound fundamentals that lead to superior products. Everyone benefits with the new synergies inherent in this dynamic international company and its leading-edge technologies and equipment.

Matt Cevasco sat down with Paddy Kamen, the editor-in-chief of Envision: seeing beyond, for an interview in September. He shared the story of Marc Abitbol, who has established an incredibly strong presence in the global medical manufacturing and technology sector.

Marc Abitbol, Ph.D., is the founder of Visionix, a company that develops, manufactures and sells wavefront-based technology. “In 2003, Visionix acquired Luneau, the leading French manufacturer of medical devices. Luneau has been in business since 1928 and is known for strong research and development and continuous improvement in products and services, including Visionix ophthalmic diagnosis systems based on wavefront technology,” says Cevasco. The companies provide complete solutions for eyecare professionals (ECPs) and optical labs in Europe, theU.S., the Far East and now Canada. It is Abitbol’s technology that forms the core of the Visionix instrument line.”

We will cover Visionix’s impressive refraction instrument in a moment. But first, more about the Briot/WECO connection.

In 2010, Luneau acquired Briot International and its WECO subsidiary from Belgium-based Buchmann Optical Holding. Briot International develops, manufactures and markets Briot and WECO edgers. With the merger, most managers and distribution systems remained in place. It was at this juncture that Matt Cevasco came on board as president and general manager for Briot/WECO Canada, Briot USA and Visionix.

“I had a strong background in the industry and I was excited about Abitbol’s goals for the company,” explains Cevasco. “He is very entrepreneurial and wanted to bring high-end solutions to a variety of markets. Abitbol is an innovator, a driver and an idea man. His approach is to find the people he believes can drive the business and then give them the tools they need to do the job.”

Cevasco notes that Abitbol’s business philosophy has found a happy home at Briot/WECO. “New product technologies have filtered into all sides of the business. For example, Weco was known for industrial heavy-duty equipment while Briot embodied smaller, user-friendly units. We’ve ported some of the best of Weco into Briot products and vice-versa, resulting in better products for both brands. We can meet the needs of anyone in the marketplace with product that is easy to use and reliable. This includes the optician who does not currently finish lenses.”

The Briot eMOTION is just one example of the innovation afoot at Briot/WECO. It is a new edging system that combines the best of Briot’s technologies and puts them within everyone’s reach. For perfect edging, glazing, tracing and drilling, including custom jobs, the eMOTION reduces time and labour while increasing precision. “This is a high-end, all-in-one machine and the reality is that this technology is so easy to use that there is no reason not to finish your own lenses,” explains Cevasco. “An industry survey showed that over 90 per cent of optical professionals said in-office edging increased their profits. Nearly as many said it also increased their patient base.”

A video demonstrating the eMOTION in action can be viewed at:

Cevasco is tremendously excited about the innovative, patented PowerMap™ technology from Visionix, which provides simultaneous multipoint measurements of all the parameters of a lens.

“We’re starting to see a major shift away from the traditional way of doing refraction which has been with us for the last 100 years. Wavefront technology has given us a way to obtain a more accurate objective refraction,” explains Cevasco. He goes on to illustrate: “This system allows the ECP to refract at the most precise level possible. The doctor in the exam room can now match advances in lens technology, which makes for a more satisfied patient.”

Visionix technology was developed by in-house scientists who were previously involved in the ‘Star Wars’ space project. It is based on Hartman Wavefront 3D technology. Visionix is a leader in the field, with the first wavefront product for industry applications in 1997 and the first full refraction line based on wavefront in 2009.

According to Cevasco, increasing numbers of optometrists say that the part of their job they like the least is refraction. “They tell us they would rather work on diseases of the eye. This is a tool for them to make the refraction process more effective and efficient. It allows super-accuracy while also being easy enough to use that it can be handed over to an assistant. I can teach anyone how to use it 10-15 minutes. Simplicity, accuracy and speed lead to patient satisfaction and better overall experience in the practice.”

Briot/WECO Canada and Visionix are based inToronto, with four sales reps who demonstrate the products and ensure customer expertise and satisfaction.Western Canada distribution is handled through Insight Medical. “All our representatives have many years of experience in servicing the equipment, which we are happy to do for the life of the machines,” says Cevasco.

It is no longer true that high-end equipment is available only to the few. Cevasco is proud to be associated with leading-edge technology that is available to all market segments. He is also proud of the innovative companies – Briot/WECO Canada and Visionix – that he leads under the very able and entrepreneurial Marc Abitbol, a visionary in the vision care industry. “We will continue to innovate with the goal of making the eyecare industry more efficient and effective,” says Cevasco. “When we have happy clients, they have satisfied patients. Everyone has a good experience and everyone wins.”

New Practice Management Software Excels by Every Measure

By Paddy Kamen

eyeonindustry_ocucoThere’s a ‘new kid on the block’ in the world of practice management software and if you’re looking to increase sales, organize your office to a ‘T’, and have access to new business development tools, you’ll want to check out the latest player in the Canadian optical market: Acuitas by Ocuco.

While relatively new to Canada, having launched in May 2012, Ocuco is the number one software developer for optical practices in Europe and the second largest optical retail software company in the world. The company’s expansion into North America from its home base in Ireland adds to its already successful presence in 36 countries including the UK, Italy, France, Spain and Australia. As thought leaders in the industry, Ocuco has 17 years of solid growth under its belt, with over 100 employees, including 40 developers. The company has invested over $20 million in R&D, making it the practice management suite leader in the industry.

Ocuco software has been installed in over 5,000 locations world-wide since 1997. It serves independent eyecare professionals (ECPs), optical retail chains of all sizes, as well as optical lens manufacturing labs, for the fulfillment of all aspects of the patient’s journey. Customers include Vision Express in the UK and Salmoiraghi & Vigano in Italy. In each market, Ocuco has ‘localized’ its software so that health insurance plans, whether public or private, and the local vernacular are incorporated.

“Our software, for both opticians and optometrists, is less expensive and far more comprehensive in its offerings than that of our competition. We offer scaled versions for just retail alone and for electronic medical records,” says Dermot Walsh, vice-president of sales for North America. “With most other systems you need to change your process to work with it. But with Acuitas, we can configure our application and mold the system to best fit your business needs, making for an easy transition period.”

So easy, in fact, that Ocuco recently won a software “face-off” with the buying group Vision Source. The event allowed six vendors a one-to-one face-off where the names of the competing vendors were picked from a hat. Contestants were then read a script and had to demonstrate how quickly and easily they could incorporate it into their system. “All the other vendors used doctors who were experienced with their system to do the input,” explains Walsh. “I took a person from the audience and gave her 15 minutes of training to demonstrate the simplicity of the application. We won hands down with 54 per cent of the votes and are now the supplier of choice for Vision Source Canada.”

Yes, the software is easy to use but Ocuco doesn’t skimp on support. Their support team of 38 is the largest in the global optics industry. “Ocuco offers what we call ‘follow-the-sun’ support. Our engineers are always online waiting to assist you, no matter the time or time zone,” explains Walsh. “All new practices receive a welcome call, hardware review, stock setup, data migration, onsite training and go-live day support, follow up advanced on-site training and dedicated account management and consulting. Furthermore, our staff members resolve customer inquiries on the first call 94 per cent of the time, which is a remarkable record.”

Integration is the name of the game for Ocuco’s Acuitas, which was the first paperless practice management system with full integration of all imaging equipment and data systems. “Our customers can seamlessly manage the entire patient journey from marketing and appointment booking, through to exam, dispensing, order collection, recall and e-commerce,” notes Walsh. “All types of clinical systems are integrated for automated validation, electronic submission and reconciliation of insurance claims.

“Business Intelligence (BI) reports are a key feature of the system and essential to the survival of any business,” says Walsh. “These BI reports include revenues, exam outcomes, sales figures, stock availability, sales and brand performances, recall trends and return-on-investment (ROI). With 65 BI reports in Acuitas, there’s no more guessing about how your business is performing,” he adds.

The proven ROI of Acuitas is very impressive indeed. “We can demonstrate a six-month ROI,” notes Walsh. “Our software reduces the time needed for an examination because all the information is at the practitioner’s fingertips immediately through interfaces with optical equipment including the Rx, the diagnostics, previous lens and frame selections, stock availability and so on. Recalls are automated and can be accomplished by email, letter, text messaging or phone. A lot of administrative time is saved, in addition to chair time. Plus the conversion rate from exam to sale can be increased by up to eight per cent. This gain alone will pay for the application.”

Personalized demonstrations of the software are available via the Ocuco website at: “I’d rather take a potential client through the demonstration personally, rather than conduct group webinars,” says Walsh.

So the ‘new kid’ is in fact, a well-seasoned global software developer for the optical community. Who knew?

Marchon Canada: A Company on the Move

By JoAnne Sommers

eyeonindustry_marchonIn business, as elsewhere in life, timing is everything. Just ask Félix Sidès, Marchon Canada’s vice president of sales.

Two years ago, Félix, then an independent sales agent, was employed by Sàfilo Canada and in charge of all the company’s retail sales. That’s when Marchon Eyewear came calling. Félix and his father, Iso, were asked to lead the new management team being put together at Marchon Canada.

“The timing couldn’t have been better,” says Félix. “Marchon is owned by Vision Service Plan (VSP), a Sacramento, CA-based eyecare insurance company that was named one of Fortune magazine‘s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2010. VSP is a company of the future and there was a buzz around Marchon because they were starting to acquire new licenses like Valentino, Ferragamo, Lacoste and Nine West. They offered great positions to both my dad (as vice president of operations) and myself, which made the situation ideal.”

Iso Sidès had spent 31 years selling Sàfilo products in Canada and Félix had worked with his father for 15 years. Both men felt it was time for a change, and, “Marchon offered us an amazing opportunity, a chance to grow a smaller company and take it to the next level,” Félix says.

Marchon Canada was launched in 1995 but January 2011 marked an important turning point with the appointment of Sidès père et fils to the company’s leadership group. Soon after their arrival, Marchon began implementing important changes: lowering its frame prices, refining its selection, improving its discount structure, and establishing partnerships with major optical practices and Canadian retailers.

The company’s sales force also underwent a transformation, says Félix. “We changed about two-thirds of our sales reps, adding young, dynamic people who reflect our philosophy, which is always to be there for our customers and always to find new and innovative ways to create stronger partnerships with clients.”

It didn’t take long for the new approach to pay off. Today, Marchon Canada is growing at the rate of more than 30 percent a year and by the end of 2013, the company expects to be doing more than twice the business it did in 2010.

Much of that success can be attributed to Marchon’s team of 78 employees, including its 30 sales agents. The company has a strong culture based on its people, service orientation and focus on teamwork, Félix says.

“We’re driven by sales and customer service and it is very important that our representatives are happy since they are the first point of contact with customers. We’re passionate about what we do and our employees have become passionate about it, too.”

In fact, Félix says he has never seen such team spirit as exists among the 12 members of the Ontario sales team. It began when Michael Bella, who is well known in the eyewear industry, was appointed Marchon’s Ontario sales manager; he then proceeded to recruit several of his friends in the business to join his new team. “They’re driven by a spirit of friendly competition and have a great dynamic amongst themselves and with their respective customers.”

After he joined Marchon, one of Félix’s first orders of business was to build a team that recognized and addressed the needs of Canadian optical retailers. Here, he was working from a position of strength as the man who brought corporate retail eyewear expertise to Canada and created a separate division that exclusively handled sport and fashion customers. In the past 17 months, Marchon has significantly increased its presence in non-optical specialty stores across the country, including department stores, sunglass specialty stores and apparel stores.

The company recently acquired Dragon Alliance, a leading U.S. sport eyewear and accessories brand in the active youth lifestyle market, which brought with it valuable technological expertise in the field of extreme sports.

“Our goal is to be the major optical and sports eyewear player in the industry,” explains Félix. “We have the eyewear license for Nike and Lacoste, two of the biggest players in the sporting industry, and we believe that it is just a matter of time before Marchon becomes the leader in this field.”

To that end, the company is in the process of launching a program involving 12 Golf Town locations in Ontario, B.C. and New Brunswick that will see them offer a selection of Nike specialty golf sunglasses and Nike fashion items. There are also plans to approach golf course pro shops about selling the Nike sunglass collection, specifically those models that are designed for golfing.

Looking to the future, Marchon Canada plans to move into a new state-of-the-art building in July 2013. The building, which will be sited near the company’s current location in Dorval, QC, will feature a much larger warehouse facility that will service the sporting and optical industries. And within five years, the company plans to be doing at least three times its current volume of business – if not more, says Félix.

Eyecare insurance is expected to play a major role in that future growth. VSP, the U.S. leader in vision and eyecare benefits, currently covers more than 55 million Americans under vision insurance plans for individuals and businesses. The company hopes to cover the same proportion of Canadians – about 5.5 million, says Félix.

“Our strategy is to begin by approaching major Canadian companies and then eyecare practices with the goal of establishing partnerships with them,” he explains. “At present, no one in Canada is doing that so the timing is perfect.”

Once again, Félix Sidès and his team are in the right place at the right time.

Brilliant Business Model Puts New Store Set-Up Within Reach

By Paddy Kamen

eyeonindustryThe cost of establishing a new retail store can be prohibitive, easily running in excess of $100,000. That expense, on top of paying for an education in optometry or opticianry, makes the dream of owning one’s business distant at best for many new grads. But what if the cost of setting up the store was cut to one-quarter of that?

Consider what you need to dress up the bare bones of a space: display racks, dispensing tables, cabinets, chairs, etc. Who can provide these at a fraction of the cost you might have expected?

Mani Vaghedi just might be your man. This extremely bright, multilingual computer science, engineering and business grad has created a business – Frame Displays Canada – that will meet the needs of new-to-the-industry professionals as well as optical retailers who want an updated look or are opening another location.

Vaghedi has a strong family background in the optical business: his father, uncles and brother are all opticians. He was raised in Germany and came to the the 1980s. By the early ‘90s, Vaghedi had a degree with a double-major in computer science engineering and business. He moved into the optical retail world and became involved in creating and managing turnkey optical operations for a number of optometrists. In the course of managing the set-up for over 50 stores, he couldn’t help but notice that costs were too high in the optical display and furniture market. He began working on an alternative and came up with an attractive product and business proposition that is helping to create success for retailers in both North America and Europe.

The parent company, CNS Displays, is based in Sterling,VA and services the non-optical retail sector (accounts include Georgio Armani, Lacoste, HMS Host and Gap), while CNS Frame Displays serves the American optical market. A sister company in Germany, Concept-S, provides high-quality, low-cost display equipment to optical retailers in Europe.

The core of Vaghedi’s business is an acrylic modular display system. It features acrylic panels along with various fittings and shelves that fit into them. “The pieces that fit into the panel constitute our intellectual property,” explains Vaghedi. “These fittings and shelves are highly adaptable. For example, the piece that attaches the panel to the wall can serve several other functions within the system. The multi-functionality of key pieces allows economies of scale: we can produce hundreds of thousands of the same piece at one time, thus reducing the overall cost of the installation.”

Frame Displays Canada ( opened in 2011 with a showroom office in a historic building in the Liberty Village neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. The friendly face you’ll see in the showroom is that of Toronto native Satyar Motamedi, Vaghedi’s brother-in-law, who is also national sales manager.

Having a brick and mortar location in Toronto was important to Vaghedi, despite the fact that orders can easily be filled online and via virtual meetings. “We felt it was important to have an on-the-ground location where our customers could see and feel the product and also have the peace of mind that we are, in fact, located in Canada,” he explains. “At the same time, those who cannot come to the showroom will likewise enjoy great service from us via the Internet.”

Store design services are available from Frame Displays at no extra charge. Clients simply provide the store dimensions along with window and door placement and Frame Displays staff use their proprietary drag-and-drop software to draw up a floor plan, arranging shelving and furniture as a starting point for discussion. Working face-to-face with clients in the showroom or via a conference call online meeting, units can be added, subtracted or moved, and new ideas discussed. Even the window displays are shown, and flooring and wall colours can be added. The usual top-down floor plan view can be switched to a 3D view and back again. “The software makes it easy for us to design the store and create an order within 24-48 hours for any client, worldwide,” explains Vaghedi. “We deliver most orders within four weeks, which is a big improvement over the competition which can take as long as three months.”

In addition to optical frame displays, eyewear racks and storage cases, rotating displays and mirrors, Frame Displays also provides practical furniture solutions, including dispensing tables, chairs and countertops. “We produce the dispensing tables ourselves and work with best-of-breed and best-in-design components unmatched by anyone else,” explains Vaghedi.

With 95 percent of their business in the optical market, Frame Displays Canada thoroughly understands retail trends. “The optical shops we design are right on-trend with the latest concepts in retail design: light, bright and engaging for consumers,” notes Vaghedi. “It’s a 21st-century look with high-quality components at a very reasonable price.

Mani Vaghedi truly understands how many details are involved in setting up an optical retail store because he has done it many times himself. As he explains: “I know how overwhelming it can be, from getting the space to outfitting it, obtaining lab equipment, furnishing an examination room and dealing with so many suppliers of frames and lenses. We reduce complexity and financial stress for the practitioner. And we can scale the project to exactly match budgetary requirements, allowing the practitioner to add bells and whistles a couple of years down the road when cash flow has improved.”

Reducing financial strain is key to starting a business off on the right foot and Frame Displays even offers a doorway to financing via a special arrangement with Element Financial ( Vaghedi says, “Qualified practitioners can borrow through our partners and enjoy reduced payments as low as $49 per month for the first six months. Funds can be used for leaseholds, equipment and pre-payment to vendors.”

Mani Vaghedi is clearly a man on a mission: to make the establishment of an on-trend optical shop stress-free and affordable. He’s done so much more than simply create a new shelving system. Kudos to Frame Displays Canada!